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Researcher Hits Bulls-Eye for Antibiotic Target

the other possibility would be to design a drug to mimic the protein, causing the bacteria to react as if it were starving even when in the presence of a plentiful nutrient supply, Sanders said.

Such a signal exists in almost all living things because most organisms struggle to find food or nutrients and have had to develop a way to avoid starvation, he said.

"Bacteria typically are in an environment lacking nutrients and respond by limiting their reproduction," he said. "And that's a good thing because if they were growing at their maximum rate all the time, within two weeks we would be 20 feet deep in bacteria."

The protein also is of particular interest because it is highly processive, meaning it is efficient in the chemical reaction it initiates. It is able to latch onto its substrate, the substance it uses to fuel its chemical reaction, and to stay tenaciously in place until it has consumed all of the substrate, Sanders said.

Using X-ray crystallography, Sanders was able to show the structure of the E. coli exopolyphosphatase and found the protein had a unique way of achieving its high processivity.

"There is a hole in the protein," he said. "This is extremely rare and provides a physical explanation of why it is so processive. The hole physically encompasses the substrate, keeping it in place, in addition to the usual chemical bonding that keeps it attached. Once the protein attaches to the substrate, it doesn't come off. The protein chews away until it reaches the end of the substrate chain."

Sanders worked with a team to create the first-of-its-kind animated movie showing this process from the point of view of the substrate. The audience follows along as it is pulled through the protein from one side to the next.

"This is the first time this sort of thing has ever been seen, and this is the first movie of its kind," he said. "It elegantly illustrates the physical process of
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